Commentary

Oscar Viewing Is Down -- What's To Blame?

Not all live TV is created equal -- or is premium fare.

Sports, news and entertainment awards content all offer valuable and less-valued moments. Premium content doesn’t always lead to premium results -- although premium advertising dollars will always chase that promise.

The king of all trophy-based entertainment awards shows, “The Oscars” on ABC Television Network, took another massive hit this year, down 60% -- to 9.8 million viewers from 23.6 million viewers a year ago.

This isn’t out of line. Other entertainment awards shows this season also crumbled. The “Grammys” was down 51%, while the “Golden Globes” lost 62% and the “SAG Awards” dropped 52%.

Blame a lot of this on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Still, national TV advertisers might be hard-pressed to make sense of a TV show that attracts 10 million viewers, when they may have spent some $2 million for a 30-second commercial.

Should we even talk about “audience deficiency units” -- or do we just take our lumps, change the conversation and get back to work?

Sure, some of this is part of an ongoing broadcast ratings erosion, leaving marketers with fewer choices for big brand awareness. Still, these sizable shocks to the TV ecosystem have long-term implications.

Good news for marketers -- the Oscar advertising load for the 150-minute show remained steady at around 40-43 minutes collectively -- depending on your favorite estimate.

Not bad, and not much controversy. There was less excitement and awareness of these pandemic-disrupted films. The not-so-good news -- a smaller, live audience, following in the footsteps of other award shows.

No matter. Big-name marketers continue to seek out live TV viewing: Cadillac, Verizon, Rolex and Google have been top sponsors over the past two years.

The Academy also switched things around this year. Instead of ending the show with the best picture award, it left viewers with the best actress and best actor awards.

Rumor had it that the Academy was positioning best actor to be the final award, given the strong probability that the late Chadwick Boseman would win. It's somewhat of a big storybook ending.

But the big emotional ending went in a different direction. Anthony Hopkins, who wasn't in attendance, won for “The Father.” Later on, Hopkins sent thanks for the award and praised and honored Boseman.

Reality sent in for TV viewers. This was a live awards show with unpredictable results in an unusual time. And, for TV business executives, some, but not a lot, of clarity as well.

5 comments about "Oscar Viewing Is Down -- What's To Blame?".
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  1. Dan Ciccone from STACKED Entertainment, April 28, 2021 at 12:56 p.m.

    "This was a live awards show with unpredictable results..."

    Totally disagree.  The Oscars committe totally changed the way that they determine nominees and winners and whether theaters were open or not, most viewers have not even heard of many of the movies and people nominated.

    And the elephant in the room is that award shows have turned into political pulpits when viewers keep communicating that they want politics and social issues out of sports and awards broadcasts.


    Perfect storm mostly created by the industry itself and the people they reward, so it was totally predictible that many viewers didn't care to watch a program celebrating a bunch of movies and people they never heard of who would use their time to bloviate their political beliefs.

  2. brian ring from ring digital llc, April 28, 2021 at 3:17 p.m.

    We have nothing to do. How is it that they cannot produce a decent TV show with all that talent. It's stunning. TV really is dead after all, I guess.

  3. James Siciliano from Channels:360, llc replied, April 28, 2021 at 3:19 p.m.

    Dan Ciccone, I couldn't agreee with you more. Audience errosion of the awards shows have been happening for sometime now and it's not just about fragmentation.    

  4. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, April 28, 2021 at 3:47 p.m.

    Dan raises an important point. If you go back into history there are clearly evident cases where public sentiment about politics and related societal issues was reflected in the ratings. As I note in my book,"TV Now And Then" ( media Dynamics Inc. 2015 ), as an aftermath of the massive anti-war, anti-Establishment upheavals in the late 1960s a, blue collar backlash erupted, especially after the riots at the Democrat Party Presidential nominating convention in 1968. Suddenly, many "law and order" TV shows---both cops and westerns, which had been doing OK but not great in the Nielsens saw major increases in their viewership while programs that seemed to support the other side began to trail off in the ratings. Soon, law and order programs dominated the top show listings---a clear indication to me, at least,  of a conservative backlash that responded to the flag burnings, draft dodging, often violent protests that had simply gone too far and alienated a lot of people---dubbed the "silent majority". And then came the new breed of sitcoms, led by "All In The Family" and the battle began to play out in that format as well.

    I often wonder whether we are now seeing the same thing in the declining ratings of certain sports attractions ---where some fans are being turned off by the infusion of politics into the sports and, maybe, this applies to specials like the Oscars, which frequently,  do the same thing? Without taking sides on the rights and wrongs of the often hateful political  standoff that is so common today, this raises the question: do Football fans really need to see political stands taken by the athletes and teams on TV? Do might- be Oscar viewers want to be told what party or beliefset they should support  and which ones are stupid and must be ridicued or shunned? For some the answer may be that these are merely ar a healthy manifestation of free speech; but I can see why others might object and take this out on the shows by reducing their viewing.

  5. Paul Bledsoe from Bledsoe Advertising/Productions, April 28, 2021 at 4:38 p.m.

    Totally agree with the comments and writer. Pandemic, less entertainment, and politics.

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